As a mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs, and having graduated from a big company myself, I talk to many people who have spent years struggling up the corporate ladder and dream of jumping ship to become an entrepreneur. I typically suggest that the grass always looks greener on the other side, and the move from employee to entrepreneur is very risky and is not for everyone.
In fact, in my experience, many current employees simply don’t have the attributes and mindset to be an entrepreneur. My challenge is to be more positive on who could make the leap. In that context, I was impressed with the specifics offered in a new book, “Be Your Best Boss,” by William R. Seagraves, who, like me, has successfully lived on both sides of the fence:
- You know how to play nice with others in business. People skills don’t come easily, especially if you are an introvert, have a big ego, or are prone to emotional outbursts. However, working in a corporate setting for years can smooth out highs and lows, shaping you into someone who’s comfortable dealing with new people and situations.
- You may be smarter than your boss. After surviving and learning from several corporate regimes, and managing a few yourself, you start to recognize the skills and knowledge required to run a business. If you can’t wait to control the results yourself, and avoid the dysfunctions above you, your employee-to-entrepreneur potential is high.
- You serve as a role model at work and home. If you are at a place in life where dependents and other employees already look up to you, it means that you have overcome the fear of taking the lead by tackling obstacles and taking control of your life. Entrepreneurs must be models of personal empowerment in their new venture.
- You’ve got the thick skin of a rhino. Wisdom also comes in the form of a thick skin. After years of learning not to take setbacks personally, you have managed to flourish with your ego on the line. You have learned to adapt, and have developed a backbone and the stamina to get through business hurdles, and accept how much work is needed for success.
- You’ve had practice managing money. At some point in your corporate career, you’ve likely had to create and manage a budget for a project, department, or division. The rules of accounting don’t change just because you’re the owner. You now understand the need to account for every dollar, and find ways to fund your spending before and after revenue.
- You have some savings you can leverage. A retirement fund or savings for a rainy day built from a corporate job puts you in an enviable position of starting a business without begging from friends and family. It’s also the only way to truly run your own business, rather than trying to satisfy hungry investors or friends who often change their mind.
- You have a passion that you would like to turn into cash. If you see your passions as mere hobbies, you could be missing the boat. These interests could be your ticket to a career of doing something that ignites a fire inside you every day, and makes money, versus a routine that you bores you to death. It’s your chance to build a legacy of love.
Everyone who feels stuck in a rut at work, is recently unemployed, or is hanging on to an existing job and sanity for dear life, needs to take a hard look at themselves relative to these potential positives. If you can’t find an enthusiastic yes for most of them, perhaps it’s time to appreciate the positives of a regular weekly corporate paycheck for predictable work you know how to do.
The old American dream of challenging work and benefits for all is gone. We can either lament the passing of the “way we were,” or we can slip into the new American dream, and view it as a blessing, before others steal your opportunity. You might even be able to make a difference, like feeding the poor, or cleaning up the environment. Welcome to the age of the entrepreneur before it gets too crowded!
Image credit: CC by Robert Scoble